News Cast 8/10

News Cast for August 10th:

Okeechobee County residents can rejoice knowing that there will be a free, asymptomatic COVID-19 walk-up testing site for use tomorrow. Officials from the local health department announced on Friday that there will be a free, walk-up COVID-19 testing site tomorrow at the Department of Health facility. The testing will begin at 5:30 in the afternoon and continue until seven o’clock in the evening. Okeechobee County Commissioner Kelly Owens says she is glad to see that the Okeechobee County Health Department is not only having a free testing site at their facility but the fact that it’s being done on a weeknight in an attempt to catch people as their getting off of work and heading home as opposed to having it on a weekend which did not work out as well previously. On that note, Owens says the need and desire for the free testing was there among residents but it was possibly a question of marketing the free testing site better. The county is assisting the marketing of the testing site by putting it on the county emergency management app for smartphones and also using the Everbridge System.

The free walk-up testing site will be held at the Okeechobee County Health Department tomorrow beginning at 5:30 at 1728 NW 9th Avenue beginning at 5:30 and concluding at seven o’clock.

A fire to a clothes dryer inside someone’s home caught the attention of Okeechobee County and City firefighters a few weeks ago and unfortunately caused significant damage to the home. Crews were called to the home on the five hundred block of NW 20th Lane just after 1:45 on the afternoon of July 20th and arrived to find smoke emanating from the dryer. The occupants of the home were evacuated quickly by crews so they could fight the blaze. They needed about two hours to get the fire under control and they used about a hundred gallons of water to get it extinguished. The fire caused about $43 thousand dollars in damages to property and contents. The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the state fire marshal. Members of the local Red Cross were called in to work with the occupants. No one was hurt.

Okeechobee County has officially passed the four-figure mark in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. As of Monday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is at 1,039 since March, with seven fatalities. 96 county residents have been hospitalized. Those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste.

Also as of Monday morning, there are a reported 532,806 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and 527,036 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 8,186 with 30,505 people hospitalized.

The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm now every Tuesday thru Saturday. This number, which also doubles as the phone number of the County Library is manned by live personnel and callers can ask about county updates on the Coronavirus and what is being done. The hotline will not address questions about the virus itself or medical questions. The County Library phone number/hotline related to county updates on the Coronavirus is (863) 763-3536. Any questions related to the virus itself, please call the Okeechobee Health Department at (863) 462-5800 or the 24/7 Department of Health hotline at (866) 779-6121.

Remember, the key to avoiding the Coronavirus is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it is recommended. Avoid touching your eyes or face with unwashed hands. Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from someone when greeting them and not shaking any hands. Avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 10 people or more.

If you need further information about the virus and recommendations for preventing it, please log on to the Department of Health at or the Center for Disease Control at

A Glades County area school teacher is in some hot water at this time in connection with some recent inappropriate sexual behavior involving minors. Lee County Sheriff’s Department officials say 26 year old Taylor Austin Harris was arrested after it was revealed that on June 2nd of this year, Harris was believed to be involved in a sex crime with two young girls in Lehigh Acres. Investigators say Harris was using Snapchat to engage in sexually charged conversations with the two victims and in some of the conversations, Harris offered money and alcohol in exchange for sex. Investigators also say Harris was a teacher at West Glades County Elementary School where one of the victims had previously been a student. Harris was charged with two counts of obscene communication to seduce or lure a child and two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior. Harris is currently free after posting bond.

On the arrest report:

49 year old Ronald Michael Smith Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for not re-registering as a sexual offender. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

29 year old James Alton Padgett the Third of Okeechobee was arrested for sexual battery on a victim over the age of 12 and false imprisonment by threat. His bond is set at $85 thousand dollars.

30 year old Erica Faye Zinski of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft auto. Her bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

71 year old Robert Scott Hogan of Okeechobee was arrested for battery. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

28 year old Davey O’Brien Phillips of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges for the second time. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

29 year old Johnny Ray Williams Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of cocaine and synthetic cannabis and violating probation. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

39 year old Jack Edwin Jernigan of Okeechobee was arrested by police on two local warrants for undisclosed charges. He’s being held without bond.

35 year old Marcus Barrett of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated assault with intent to kill and aggravated assault with a firearm. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

37 year old Bruce Edward Bass of Okeechobee was arrested for battery, simple assault and petit theft. He was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

27 year old Bobby Robinson the Third of Okeechobee was arrested on domestic battery charges. His bond is set at $250 dollars.